Brazil Nut Farmers Crack Forest Conservation in the Tropical Andes

September 2005

One hundred and thirty pioneering Brazil nut producers in the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios, Peru recently won formal Brazil nut concessions from the Peruvian National Institute for Natural Resources (INRENA).

The establishment of these concessions effectively ensures legal protection for 225,000 hectares of primary tropical forest in the path of a planned highway connecting Brazil to the Pacific.

Supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) worked with its Peruvian counterpart, the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica, and INRENA to establish formal, long-term contracts with the local producers.

Under these contracts, Brazil nuts are harvested from mapped areas, according to management plans that incorporate the highest standards of sustainable forest management.

Brazil nuts are harvested from natural stands, not plantations, because the trees depend intimately on a complex web of pollinators, seed dispersers, and abiotic conditions. Even short-term productivity therefore depends on managing these natural stands in an ecologically sustainable fashion.

Most of the Brazil nut harvesters in this region are small-scale producers, with stands that are seldom larger than 1,000 hectares. Individually, they were ill-equipped to counter the unsustainable logging that can accompany road construction. But the project has successfully stabilized land tenure in collaboration with other land titling initiatives in the area, while also providing an economically viable and sustainable alternative to logging.

Of the total area, 27,000 hectares of Brazil nut concessions have also been certified - for the first time anywhere - by the Forest Stewardship Council in recognition of producers' adherence to the strictest international standards for forest management.

The result is a benefit for growers, the forests, and consumers seeking to use their purchasing power to support conservation.

The program is already being replicated and extended throughout Madre de Dios, and there is considerable potential for this to be expanded among small-scale Brazil nut producers in Bolivia and Brazil.

A follow up grant is enabling ACA to develop the remaining 300 Brazil nut concessions in Madre de Dios, while further strengthening INRENA's technical capacity to encourage community-based biodiversity conservation and natural resource management.

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